Tag Archives: Strategic Vision. David Johnson

Brad’s Wife and Cracker Barrel: What Not To Do During A Social Media Crisis

Social media creates news – both positive and negative.  Businesses of all sizes are finding out that social media posts can create a crisis where one did not exist.  How a business responds to such a post can determine if it becomes a crisis or not.  The saga of Cracker Barrel and Brad’s wife is a vivid example of what not to do when a social media crisis erupts.

A Milltown, Indiana man named Bradley Byrd claimed his wife, Nanette, was fired from the Cracker Barrel in Corydon, Indiana on his birthday after 11 years of service. Byrd posted a question on Cracker Barrel’s Facebook page asking, “Why did you fire my wife?”

From there, the internet took over.  Visitors to the Cracker Barrel Facebook page are unable to post on the wall, so they’ve turned to the company’s posts to find out what happened and to show their support for Brad’s wife. Some of the comments are quite funny.  #JusticeForBradsWife and #BradsWife are trending.  The media is reporting on the social media outrage.  Yet Cracker Barrel is remaining mum to the growing story both with the traditional media and on social media.  While companies will not state why an employee was terminated, Cracker Barrel is not even acknowledging the comments and is acting as if nothing is happening as it continues to post advertisements on social media.  That hasn’t stopped the social media outrage or other businesses from jumping in and making use of the tagline Brad’s wife.

Cracker Barrel is coming across as uncaring, unresponsive, and ridiculous all at the same time.  Consumers are angry at a lack of any response or acknowledgement from the company which results in even more outraged posts.  That is a place where no business wants to be.

So what should Cracker Barrel do?

  1. Acknowledge the posts on its Facebook page. A simple statement saying thank you for your post.  We appreciate hearing from you and while we value your opinion, employee records are confidential and something we cannot comment on.  Such a statement would at least demonstrate that Cracker Barrel is paying attention to what people (many of them customers) are posting.  By ignoring them, the company is basically sending the message that it doesn’t care what people (customers) think.
  2. Post testimonials online from employees on what a great place Cracker Barrel is to work for and how the company cares about its employees.
  3. Post online how much the company values its customers and their opinions.
  4. Depending on the reason for the termination, Cracker Barrel should rehire Brad’s wife and even use her in advertising.

What Cracker Barrel is doing is what no company should do when facing a social firestorm – nothing.  This allowed the story to go from social media to traditional media, making Cracker Barrel a butt of late night jokes and the object of consumer anger.  As a result of not having a crisis management plan in place for a social media crisis, Cracker Barrel has allowed Brad’s wife to get the last laugh and serve as a warning to businesses on what not to do during a crisis.


Duck Dynasty Patriarch’s Media Firestorm: A Lesson in Crisis Management

Duck Dynasty star and patriarch, Phil Robertson (Duck Commander) is the subject of a media firestorm over comments he made about homosexuals in GQ Magazine. In his interview, Robertson uses lewd imagery to discuss why he doesn’t understand homosexuality, which he goes on to call it a sin and compare homosexuality to bestiality based upon his Christian beliefs. GLADD vehemently denounced Robertson’s comments as some of the vilest ever directed towards homosexuals. While the controversy has been focused on the remarks he made about homosexuals, he also made controversial comments about African Americans, saying the cotton farm workers he knew in Louisiana were “happy” with their jobs. A&E, the network that carries Duck Dynasty announced that it was suspending Robertson indefinitely over his remarks. This in turn has led to a massive reaction against A&E and in favor of Robertson. Social media is burning up with tweets and Facebook posts defending Robertson. Sarah Palin, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and even Geraldo Rivera have come to his defense. So can the Duck Dynasty brand survive? How has Robertson handled his crisis communications efforts?

The answer to the first question is obvious. Of course the Duck Dynasty brand will survive and will actually flourish as a result of this controversy. Some will say, Paula Deen was caught admitting using the ‘n’ word over twenty years ago and her brand has been damaged severely, why the difference. The difference is that Deen’s brand was built around her persona of being a sweet grandmotherly personality her use of the ‘n’ word didn’t go with that image and her crisis communications efforts were abysmal.

Robertson and the Duck Dynasty brand have never pretended to be politically correct. Part of their appeal and brand identity has been built around their authenticity and saying what is on their mind. Even more so much of their appeal has been their strong Christian faith that appeals to a large number of their fans. In that aspect, Robertson’s remarks and his explanation reinforce that branding. Fans of Duck Dynasty fit into a more conservative outlook and are apt to agree with Robertson. Beyond that many of the shows fans will sympathize with Robertson believing that it was his first amendment right to say what he believes. Overall, the Duck Dynasty brand has strengthened their ties with their existing fans.

Beyond that, people who have never watched Duck Dynasty will probably tune into the show to find out what all the controversy is about that the media is reporting. Not all of these new viewers will stay but some will and become Duck Dynasty fans. So overall the brand comes out ahead earning itself millions in free publicity.

Robertson’s crisis communications efforts have been good so far. He released a brief statement that reaffirmed his Christian belief while stating he would never disrespect anyone. Beyond that he has been quiet and done no embarrassing YouTube videos apologizing nor attacked either his critics or A&E. His cast members (as would be expected since they are family members) are all supportive of him. His fans are vocal on social media and are petitioning A&E to drop his suspension. He has prominent supporters who appeal to his brand’s demographics supporting him. Next he needs to do a media interview with Oprah or perhaps Barbara Walters and address the issue and then continue his silence.

Despite the media firestorm, the Duck Dynasty brand and Phil Robertson are probably stronger as a result of this controversy. Robertson played to his authenticity branding that appeals to his fans and reinforced that appeal. His crisis response has avoided the pitfall that we often see in which the crisis response becomes the story (see Paula Deen and Lululemon). This is living proof that in the 24/7 media cycle and social media world that we live in, at times a crisis can be the best thing to happen to a brand.